While it might not be front and center in our collective consciousness, most of the world is more or less aware of the United States’ dubious history with its indigenous tribes: the Trail of Tears, the Seminole Wars, Wounded Knee, and all those shameful, bloody enterprises carried out to consolidate white American rule from sea to shining sea. But on the whole, we’re much less aware of the atrocities carried out by the independent nations of Latin America who were intent on suppressing indigenous autonomy within their own borders.
From the Arauco War of Chile, to Argentina’s Conquest of the Desert, many countries of Latin America still bear the open wounds of the brutal conquest and genocide of their indigenous peoples. For over a century, Mexican history books have conveniently glossed over a 42-year war carried out against the Yaqui tribe of Sonora that ended in the enslavement and execution of tens of thousands of people, guilty only of defending their culture and traditions.
That is, until Mexican novelist Paco Taibo II put together one of the most extensive historiographies of the Yaqui Wars ever seen, then made a one-hour documentary for TeleSUR about it. Now TeleSUR has been nice enough to put it on Vimeo for all to enjoy. Behold TeleSUR’s Yaquis: The Story of a Popular Struggle and a Mexican Genocide.
Divided into two 30-minute chapters, Yaquis follows Taibo through the deserts of Sonora, as he shares insight on the tribe’s profoundly democratic, communal social structure; the military history of their confrontation with the armies of Porfirio Díaz; 10 years of systematic genocide; and their final betrayal by the generals of the Mexican Revolution. Along the way, he meets the modern-day descendants of the Yaqui, who so bravely defended their heritage, and shares the details of their ancestors’ struggle with a generation deprived of their own language and history.
Overall, it’s a fascinating lesson in popular history and an important project of historical recuperation. Yet, in light of the Yaqui people’s continued confrontations with unsympathetic local and federal governments, Yaquis: The Story of a Popular Struggle and a Mexican Genocide becomes much more than that–it is a reminder that there is much history left to write.